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Senate Democrats’ Agreement Points to Breakthrough on Citizenship This Year

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Washington, DC – Senate Democrats announced a $3.5 trillion budget agreement last night as part of its Build Back Better agenda. The plan is expected to address jobs, care, climate, and, yes, citizenship. 

While we do not yet have details regarding how many immigrants are covered, the inclusion of pathways to citizenship in the budget agreement is the latest positive sign that this is the year for a breakthrough. Key members in the House and Senate are fighting to make sure immigration stays in the package, are optimistic that it will pass muster with the Senate Parliamentarian, and are dismissing bad faith Republican efforts to derail immigration reform.

  • Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, confirms that immigration is in the package. Padilla, said on a Tuesday afternoon press call, before the agreement was announced, that his “understanding and expectation is that immigration is included in that reconciliation package.” Last night, following news of the budget agreement, Senator Padilla tweeted, “Tonight we took a big step forward in making major investments in critical infrastructure for the American people — from climate to childcare and immigration.”
  • Citizenship legislation will produce substantial economic and fiscal benefits. Recent analysis from the Center for American Progress summarizes why delivering citizenship for Dreamers, TPS holders, and farm workers and other essential workers, “would result in big economic benefits for all Americans — and it can and should be done through the budget reconciliation process.” The CAP analysis finds that a pathway to citizenship for these groups “would add a cumulative $1.5 trillion to U.S. GDP over a decade and create just more than 400,000 new jobs. By the end of a decade after passage, all Americans would see higher wages by an annual $600.”
  • Democrats are gearing up to make sure immigration is greenlit by the parliamentarian. This from Bloomberg: Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said, “We have a very strong argument to make that it is relevant and would fit within the rules of the budget reconciliation process.” Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are focused on Dreamers, TPS holders, farm workers and other essential workers because, as Espaillat suggested, those groups have the most support around them. But he added that he and others were willing to be flexible on how many immigrants could obtain a legal status through reconciliation: “We will have a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C and a Plan D. We’re not just sticking to one scope of how many folks would be impacted. We’ll try to include as many folks as possible.”
  • Senator Dick Durbin dismisses bad faith effort by Senator John Cornyn and Thom Tillis to derail immigration reform. Recently, a Cornyn/Tillis letter to Durbin included a non-starter of an offer. Senator Durbin isn’t falling for it, and sent a very strong and substantive response letter, stating, “your legislative proposal…would exclude hundreds of thousands of Dreamers who are eligible for DACA but were blocked from enrolling in the program by the previous Administration…In contrast to your proposed legislation, the bipartisan House-passed American Dream and Promise Act and the Senate version of the Dream Act would provide a pathway to citizenship to all Dreamers who are eligible for the DACA, as well as Dreamers who are excluded from DACA.” 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice: 

Democrats are taking big steps forward to deliver citizenship for millions this year.

Extending citizenship and full participation in our democracy to millions would strengthen America, bolster our economy and deliver on a longstanding promise. This is the year.